This month, local South Staffordshire Soil Farmer of the Year and winner of our  Whitegrove Trophy  Competition, Tim Parton spoke to Janet Hughes, director of DEFRA’s Future Farming and Countryside programme about his passion for sustainable soil management on his farm.

“Soil is such a valuable resource and we can’t afford to abuse it”

Tim is the farm manager at Breewood Park Farm, South Staffordshire (300ha).

An arable farmer, Tim uses a no-till system, brews nitrogen fixing bacteria and regularly monitors plant health and nutrition using methods including sap testing. This has significantly reduced the amount of inorganic fertiliser, fungicides and pesticides that are used on the farm. Not only has this  improved soil health it has also considerably improved crop yields.

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 The Farming Investment Fund (FIF) provides grants to improve productivity and bring environmental benefits. The FIF is made up of two separate funds:

  •  Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (for grants between £2,000 and £25,000
  • Farming Transformation Fund (for grants between £35,000 and £500,000)

The application window is between November 16th 2021 – 7th January 2022.

Full details of how to apply for these grants can be found in the guidance available on the .gov website by clicking on the button below. 

This year’s winner of the Whitegrove Trophy award is Mr John Billington of Adbaston Farm.

He will receive the Silver Lapwing trophy, now in its 41st year, to celebrate his success at managing a commercial farm whilst integrating conservation efforts into his farming business.

Following their success last year in the Whitegrove Trophy, the Staffordshire farming wildlife and environment competition, Kinver farming family F C Osborn and Son have entered this year’s national FWAG competition for the Silver Lapwing trophy, sponsored for the 9th year by Waitrose.

Martin Osborn and his sons James and William won last year’s county trophy for their work to integrate commercial farming with providing valuable environments for wildlife. They farm around 650 acres of hilly land with variable soil types at Union Hall Farm near Kinver, with mainly cattle and arable crops. As well assessing work for biodiversity, judges for the Silver Lapwing trophy will consider other areas of the farm including the approach to conserving natural resources through good soil management, the protection of water quality and efficient use of water and energy. On the arable side of Union Hall Farm many options are employed including a substantial area of wild bird food whilst on the livestock side much good work is going on to produce quality beef from a species rich grassland. The judges were very impressed with the degree of integration between the features that had been created and those that were of a more permanent nature.

This is the 40th year of The Silver Lapwing. It is an award for farmers who have demonstrated a real commitment to species and habitat conservation whilst showing that they can integrate their environmental management within their overall farm business. Added to this, where relevant, is the need to understand and conserve the historic aspects of the farm.

The national FWAG Association represents local Farming & Wildlife Advisory Groups (FWAGs) across the UK in partnership with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF). These groups have helped British farmers for over four decades, providing trusted, independent, environmental advice. Chris Seabridge and Associates represent FWAG in the West Midlands.

Chris, Nigel and Jane have submitted two bids to Natural England for support to create farmer groups in priority local areas, the catchment of the Blithfield Reservoir near Uttoxeter and the Lonco Brook catchment near Newport, Shropshire. If we are successful with the bids group members can gain extra points for Countryside Stewardship applications that are aligned with biodiversity and water quality objectives in the catchments. They will also be able to access training on relevant topics, as decided by the farmers themselves since both groups will be farmer-led.

Severn Trent Water and South Staffordshire Water have supported the bids and are keen to work more closely with farmers in these designated Drinking Water Safeguard Zones.

Jane James has joined forces with Chris and Nigel, working part time with Chris Seabridge and Associates. After leaving Harper Adams Jane started her career in the family farming business, specialising in pig husbandry, before joining the National Rivers Authority and the Environment Agency where she worked on town and country planning as well as permitting and agricultural policy. She left the EA in 2011 and now works as an independent agricultural and environmental consultant. FACTS qualified and a member of CIWEM, she brings experience of environmental regulation of farming, especially intensive agriculture, as well as a broad knowledge across farming and a background in sustainable development.